Ten more minutes and my wife would have never been born. The story that changed everything is hope for any of us who love someone who's making some very bad choices. My wife's grandfather, Bill, had given up on life. Trashing a profitable career for the alcohol and cocaine he could not resist. He was labeled with a prison record, he was penniless, he was hopeless and he was suicidal.
Ian is one of the more amazing people I've met. The people who knew him publicly, when they were with him privately it was a shock. He had been the leader of Youth for Christ's highly effective ministry in New Zealand. As you would converse with him, you would quickly learn that Ian had a stutter - which sometimes made it difficult just for him to get through a sentence. It was noticeable, but it wasn't important. I mean, Ian was a godly, magnetic person. But when you saw him in action before a crowd - as I did at a national youth convention with 3,000 teenagers - get ready for a shock. I mean, I felt bad, wonder-ing how he was going to communicate effectively to all these teenagers with a stutter like that. To my amazement, I discovered there suddenly was no stutter. His speech was perfect! He emceed, he preached flawlessly. That's what was so amazing about Ian - something happened to him when he had to speak well. And to you.
When I'm speaking for some event, my needs are pretty simple. Just get me a bottle of fresh water, and I'll be able to keep going like the Energizer Bunny. You know, I realized once that I was heading into a speaking session without my trusty bottle of water. Someone directed me to a hospitality room the host had set up for those on the program. I actually bypassed all the goodies and I reached for the first bottle of water I saw. As I sat on the front row of the auditorium, awaiting my time to go up on the platform, I mindlessly twisted open the cap on the bottle so I could get a swig. Well, much to my surprise and chagrin, the contents immediately began erupting out of the bottle! I hadn't read the label. I didn't know what was inside until I opened it. It was sparkling water, and it was sparkling all over me!
If it's about the Revolutionary War, I'll probably try to go there. My poor family has been dragged to more historical houses, battlefields, and Colonial restorations. Fortunately, we lived in the town where George Washington actually had his headquarters at one point during the War. So when they had a special militia re-enactment, we went to see it. But it was more than just muskets and bayonets. They had Colonial craftsmen there, too. Including the old blacksmith. He was there in the barn, next to his blazing fire. When I walked in, he was working on these big iron nails - which my wife thought would look nice as hooks and hangers on our mantle at home. They're still there. It was intriguing to watch the blacksmith do his work. Actually, he took a shapeless piece of iron, he heated it in that fire until it was red hot - and it was soft enough to shape - and then he hammered it into something that hunk of metal had never been before - something useful. I know. They're on our mantle, remember?
We met Dan and Rita and their dog when we took our Native American team to a reservation in South Dakota. They live in this dusty little village, doing their best to make a difference for the people there. They've got this little dog named Gal. Now most dogs are pretty aggressive in meeting strangers-they come right up to you, even on you. But not Gal. No, she retreats when she sees people. She cowers actually; she trembles. Dan and Rita explained why. Their dog had been severely abused by several previous owners before they got her. So she has a hard time trusting even people who want to treat her right, but she's missing a lot of loving that way.
One football team owner called it "the single most impressive symbol of being a champion in all of sports." Yep, he was talking about the National Football League's Super Bowl ring. The rings on Super Bowl champions are worth many thousands of dollars each one! Can you imagine losing something that valuable, that irreplaceable? Former Oakland Raiders champion, Gene Upshaw, can remember that. Yeah, he can imagine it. To keep his Super Bowl ring safe at home, he put it inside a bank that looked like a Pepsi can. Problem: he forgot to tell his housekeepers. You know where this is going? Yep, they mistook the bank for an empty pop can and tossed it out, ring and all.
I have some friends who live near this industrial area - it's a steel mill type of industrial. You could take me there blindfolded and I'd know where I am, because the mills produce a distinctive aroma - OK, smell? Stink? Yeah. All day long you can smell this sulfur-like, rotten eggs type of odor. When you go there for the first time, you sniff and you go, "What's that?" Funniest thing - the people who live there answer, "What's what?" They've lived around that stench so long it doesn't even register anymore. It's gross, but they've gotten used to gross.
When a little child gets home later than they're supposed to, you know there's going to be something on the other end. There's going to be a worried and not very happy parent waiting for them. I heard recently about a little girl who got home unusually late from school only to find a daddy who was, of course, not happy at all. He asked the little girl why she was late. She said, "Because my friend broke her dolly." Her dad said, "Oh, okay, so you stayed with her to fix it?" He didn't expect her gentle little reply, "No, Daddy. I stayed with her to help her cry."
There are few words that strike more fear into hearts in Middle America than the word "tornado". I grew up there, I know. I mean, twisters can hit so suddenly and they do horrific damage. That was proven again when some deadly tornadoes tore through Oklahoma back in 1999. In fact, one of those was so strong it was almost classified as an F6, which would have created a whole new category of tornado. In light of the power of those storms, the story I saw on the evening news was pretty amazing. After hearing one of those tornado warnings for the tornadoes in Oklahoma that day, a mother and her adult daughter went into a room in their house for safety. It's called a safe room or a strong room, and it's built with concrete that's reinforced with metal. And it's built to withstand even a hit by a tornado. Well, sure enough, the tornado hit that house and there was basically nothing left except for one room - the safe room. And when it was all clear, the mother and daughter walked out unscathed in a neighborhood where virtually everything else had been blown away.
I guess TV talk shows run out of material sometimes. You can tell when they're desperate. But one day I guess I turned on some talk show that demonstrates my point. They had four women on the show who were, let's say, average looking - which is what most everybody is. But they sent them backstage for a while to give them what's called a makeover. I guess that woman puts herself into someone else's hands - someone who can skillfully change her eye makeup, her coloring, her lipstick, her hairstyle, and her wardrobe. And voila - out comes this no-longer plain-looking lady. The difference can be amazing! Funniest thing, though, I've never heard of them giving a man a makeover. I guess they do; I've never heard of it. Although, I'll tell you what, a lot of us could really use one.